Return to the workplace: key tips for re-engaging your teams

How do you build staff confidence and engage people when they return to the workplace? Find out in our new guide.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT | 4 MINUTE READ

With the onset of COVID-19, the how and where of the working day changed rapidly and beyond recognition. But with the gradual transition back to the workplace, employees see work very differently from the way they did back in March 2019.

In the UK, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) study revealed that 85% of remote workers now favor a hybrid approach that combines home and office working.1 Meanwhile, a PwC survey in the US showed that 56% of employees want at least two days of remote working a week.

And it’s the same story across the Asia-Pacific region, with 82% of employees saying it’s important for organizations to provide flexibility in where and when they work.2

The pandemic has changed the way organizations are doing business. And as the evolution toward a hybrid and independent workforce continues, leaders need to find ways to adapt accordingly to engage employees – and keep them engaged.

In our new e-book, Returning to the workplace – a practical guide, we explore the opportunities and challenges organizations face in this transition period. But what can you do as an individual to help your business thrive?

Returning to the workplace

Download this essential guide to explore the opportunities and challenges people face at a time of unprecendented change to the way we work.

1. Listen and learn

1. Listen and learn

New ways of working require leaders to listen. Carefully.

Drawing on past lessons has always been a path to successful leadership, but leaders don’t always have that information to inform their decision-making in this unprecedented time.

“Listening to your people is vital,” says organizational performance specialist Neil Poynter. “Their understanding of what they see happening and what they’re experiencing will help you make the right decisions about what to do and how to react.”

This means that giving your employees a voice is critical for the wellbeing of individuals and the business.

According to the influential Engaging for Success study, “Employees are seen not as the problem, rather as central to the solution, to be involved, listened to, and invited to contribute their experience, expertise and ideas.”

So organizations must put the right mechanisms in place to create an ongoing conversation with employees and make sure that managers can hear every single voice.

While we may be emerging from a pandemic, we’re still in a period where there’s less stability and certainty. And don’t forget, not everyone’s employee experience has been positive. By creating a space for people to share diverse opinions and perspectives - and making informed decisions based on that feedback - managers can provide their teams with valuable reassurances while making necessary changes and providing support and guidance.

“Employees need to know that their company has integrity and that its leaders can be trusted,” says Neil. “We need to listen to our people, and they want to be listened to.”

“Employees need to know that their company has integrity and that its leaders can be trusted. We need to listen to our people, and they want to be listened to.”

2. Embrace a working structure without rigidity

2. Embrace a working structure without rigidity

In uncertain times, a structure can bring security and reassurance to employees who need to know they’re doing the right thing. But the system has changed. The days of a standard 9 to 5 format contained within a single workspace are numbered.

Employers now need to flex to accommodate in-office teams, hybrid working, and full-time remote working from locations across the globe. New structures also have to support the needs of individuals, for example, those with children or underlying health needs. So, any structure also needs to be hugely flexible – and implemented by leaders with an equal level of adaptability.

Harvard Business Review talks about the need for clearly set and communicated standards: clear guidelines on the types of flexibility offered. It also suggests creating “a centralized approval process for flexibility to ensure that the system is equitable.

In addition, you might consider adding regular 1-2-1 and team meetings (and a clear meeting schedule), regular communication and training to ensure everyone’s on the same page. The communication and collaboration tools you choose will also need to work for remote or hybrid workers.

In addition, you might consider adding regular 1-2-1 and team meetings (and a clear meeting schedule), regular communication and training to ensure everyone’s on the same page. The communication and collaboration tools you choose will also need to work for remote or hybrid workers.

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3. Hone your emotional intelligence

3. Hone your emotional intelligence

People often label empathy and compassion as soft skills, but according to author and speaker Simon Sinek, it’s time to change that. They’re “human skills,” he says, and they’re what make people better leaders.

While they may not be measurable in the way that some hard skills, these human traits are essential to engage with a workforce emerging from a global pandemic with all the associated loss, fear and uncertainty that comes with it. For your employees to overcome a crisis and move forward with confidence, they need to feel safe – and that means emotional safety, too.

A rapid transition from working behind a screen to being back In Real Life at an office or depot may feel overwhelming to someone who’s spent 18 months at home. And while health and safety measures can help alleviate fears, creating an environment where employees feel able to share their concerns will be necessary.

This is when sharing your own challenges, questions and vulnerabilities on this journey can be helpful. It permits people to do the same and helps create a workplace culture that increases staff loyalty and productivity while reducing the risk of stress or burnout.

A complete guide to returning to the office

4. A complete guide to returning to the office

Featuring an interview with a workplace psychologist and tips for leaders, managers and employees, our free e-book, Returning to the workplace, is your complete guide to the new, emerging world of work.

In it, you’ll find information on supporting employee wellbeing, navigating the challenges of hybrid working and making the most of the opportunities offered by the ‘new normal’

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1 "Business and individual attitudes towards the future of homeworking, UK: April to May 2021" ONS, 2021.
2 "Work Reimagined Employer Survey" EY, 2021
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